A type of diving duck, distinguished by its mohican-like feathers at back of head.
The tufted ducks is a small diving duck. The adult male is very distinctive, with a conspicuous head-crest of long feathers, and appears black and white at distance. In good light, the dark feathering has a sheen to it. During the breeding season, the adult male’s head and neck, back, upper side of the wings and tail are jet black, while the lower side of the wings, belly and breast are strikingly white. Outside of the breeding season, males become drabber and look more like females. Females are dark brown with pale flanks and a white belly. The tufted duck’s feet are large and webbed, and are set far back on the body meaning it waddles awkwardly. Its bill is grey with a white band towards end, and has black tip. And it has bright yellow eyes.
Male (right) and Female (left) Tufted Ducks
The female tufted duck emits various harsh, growling notes. The males are mostly silent but will make simple ‘wit-oo’ whistles during courtship.
Tufted ducks mainly feed by diving. They eat snails and other molluscs, aquatic insects, some plant matter and seeds.
Tufted ducks are often seen in large flocks on lakes and ponds or near coastal areas. In the UK they can be seen all year round.
Tufted Duck flying
Tufted ducks are gregarious outside of the breeding season and will often form large flocks. A wide, white band along the entire back edge of the male’s black wings is visible only during flight.
Tufted ducks are very versatile in terms of their breeding grounds and will utilise different types of lakes, marshes and landscapes – from coastal areas to heavy forests. The male’s feathered head-crest is used in the display to females during the breeding season. He will raise and lower the crest while bobbing his head. The tufted duck will build a nest on the ground near water, ensuring it is well hidden in deep foliage. The female lays a clutch of 8-12 eggs, that are incubated for 24-27 days, and will raise 1 brood a year.
Female Tufted Duck with her young
Tufted ducks live for up to 15 years, but the average age is around 4 years.
Tufted ducks are mainly migratory. However, in the UK they are resident year-round, and in winter will be joined by birds migrating from northern Europe.
The UK breeding population of tufted ducks is estimated to be between 16,000-19,000 pairs. In winter the population increases to some 110,000 birds. The species has a Green UK conservation status.
This large bird arrives on our shores from Iceland to overwinter in late September, returning northwards to breed from mid March onwards.
During the winter the population of this rare resident breeding duck increases by 55 times to that of the summer, with the influx of many thousands of others overwintering, having arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe.
A native of Japan and China, the mandarin duck was first introduced into the UK in the 18th century and started populations in the wild in the 1930’s following escapes from captivity. The UK population is estimated to be in the region of 7,000 birds.
Widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, the common merganser is the largest of the saw billed fish eating ducks. There are three sub-species with the Eurasian variant frequently known as the Goosander.
Regarded as being sacred by early Egyptians, this native goose of the African continent was introduced into Europe and elsewhere as an ornamental wildfowl species in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century.
The word scoter is often used to define northern sea ducks. There are six different species of scoter, all of which are monotypic and three of which are confined to North America. The Common Scoter like the Velvet Scoter can only be found in Europe and Asia whilst the Stejneger’s Scoter is a native of Asia alone.
Winter visitors to the UK, formerly considered a full species, but now considered a sub-species of the Tundra Swan.